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The Lucky 13: Favorite Robin Williams Performances

August 12, 2014

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Six months ago I posted my Lucky 13 Favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman performances in wake of his passing. Never did I think such the news of a passing of a well respected actor could have such an affect on me, until last night when news broke that all around funny man, and a generally good-natured human being, Robin Williams, had died. Williams touched us all with his infectious laugh and rambunctious comic antics. He was a master of improv, he was scholar in the dramatic arts, and he was a good man.

It’s hard to admit it, but it may in fact be true, more so than ever, but comedians seems to have many dark internal struggles. They try so hard to make others laugh that they sometimes take the time to evade their own personal struggles/demons; Belushi, Pryor, Farley, and Williams. The abuse of drugs, alcohol, and even depression are strong vices that deserve the attention/help from friends and family, let this be another cautionary tale for anyone who’s going through dark days in their lives. It’s definitely given me a greater perspective on life, and I’ll certainly do my up most best to not take things for granted.

But, let us take this moment and reflect all the joy, wonder, drama, sometimes fear Robin has brought us in cinema. These are my Lucky 13 picks for my favorite Robin Williams performances.

13. Vladimir Ivanoff, “Moscow on the Hudson” – This is one of Williams earlier subtly dramatic roles, as he playsa Russian musician, who defects Soviet Russia, ends up working in a Bloomingdale’s department store in New York City, as he finds adjusting to American life more difficult than he imagined. It’s a gentle reminder at the wonderment Williams can truly evoke as a character actor, while the movie itself may tend to go off tangent, it’s one of those top performances I find myself revisiting every 4-5 years on TV late in the evening.

12. Walter Finch, “Insomnia” – 2002 was the year Robin showed off his evil side to his fans, starting with Christopher Nolan’s re-imagining of the cult Norwegian crime drama, “Insomnia”. Williams plays a prime suspect in a murder case that Al Pacino’s Det. Will Dormer is investigating. The best scenes in the film are the ones that feature the psychologically distraught Dormer & Williams’ Finch. Two leading men, that you’d never imagine teaming up on the screen would do, end up bring such veracity to their performances.

11. The Mime Instructor, “Shakes the Clown” – It’s not a major role, but it’s a testament how good a friend Robin is, as he supports his pal Bobcat Goldwait in his directoral debut in this unconventional dark comedy, set in a universe overrun by clowns and mimes. Robin plays a foul mouthed Mime instructor who’s only in one scene (uncredited) of the entire film, but man oh man does he own that scene. It’s one of my top favorite random Robin Williams moments in a comedy film.

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10. Seymour Parrish, “One Hour Photo” – This is perhaps the quint-essential CREEPIEST role Robin has ever done, and to this day the movie still gives me chills. There’s nothing scarier than a man with nothing to lose over the sick obsession of another human being, or human beings for this film.

9. The Genie of the Lamp, “Aladdin” – You can’t NOT have the Genie on this list. When I was in Kindergarten, for the school talent show I performed “Friend Like Me”, I was going through a major “Aladdin” phase back then, and to this day it remains my favorite Disney animated from of the 90s. And it all goes to that goofball Genie, like I’ve stated before, Williams’ laugh is infectious, especially to a five year old.

8. Dr. Malcolm Sayer, “Awakenings” – Before his team-up with Al Pacino, Williams had the opportunity to share the screen with Robert De Niro, in the inspired true story based on Oliver Sacks’ 1973 memoir, telling the story of British neurologist Oliver Sacks, fictionalized as American Malcolm Sayer, who in 1969 discovers beneficial effects of the then-new drug L-Dopa. He administered it to catatonic patients who survived the 1917–28 epidemic of encephalitis lethargica. Leonard Lowe (De Niro) and the rest of the patients were awakened after decades of catatonia and have to deal with a new life in a new time. A genuine performances by Williams who’s onscreen chemistry De Niro is an underrated feat.

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7. Armand Goldman, “The Birdcage” – Williams & Nathan Lane make the best on screen couple ever, plain and simple. This comedic riot about a gay couple in Miami Beach, whose son is about to marry a senators daughter, find ways around the obviousness of their stature of living so the Senator won’t be taken off by the family her daughter is about to be married into. Based on the play, “La Cage Aux Folles”. Mike Nichols directs Williams to become a sharp as nails, emotionally distraught drama queen, with a fantastic supporting performance by Lane, Hank Azaria, and Gene Hackman. Wanna hear some of the best (laughable) screaming in a movie? Watch “The Birdcage”.

6. Rainbow Randolph, “Death to Smoochy” – Danny DeVito’s bleak-dark-comedy about the PBS-esq television world features an array of oddball performances. It’s been said this is the angriest role of Williams career, which for many viewers and critics alike was a bit of a turn off. Me, I find so much guilty pleasure in this movie, it’s so damn dark and whacky, for me it has major repeat value. Why? Because of RAINBOW FUCKIN’ RANDOLPH!

5. Parry, “The Fisher King” – Williams plays a deluded homeless man in Terry Gilliams modern-mystical drama about to broken men in search for the Holy Grail New York City. Williams erratic behavior and Jeff Bridges shock-jock manner work hand in hand in this film.

4. Lance Clayton, “World’s Greatest Dad” – Re-teaming with long time comic friend, Bobcat Goldwait, Williams plays a poetry teacher (sound familiar) at a private school, the very same school his sex crazed bastard of son attends. The movie focuses on the exploits of accidental fame and how one can cope with it. One of the most raw performances I’ve seen in Williams’ filmography was the moment when he discovers his dead son, it’s too damn real, especially now.

3. Daniel Hillard/Mrs. Doubtfire, “Mrs. Doubtfire” – Cross-dressing Robin Williams, the 90s was a prime time for this comic genius, and “Mrs. Doubtfire” was one the pivotal proofs of that notion.

2. Adrian Cronauer, “Good Morning, Vietnam” – Many felt this was the biggest Oscar robbery in Williams career, but nevertheless he still came out on top with “Good Will Hunting”. Saigon, 1965, during the Vietnam War, as a radio DJ on Armed Forces Radio Service, proves to be a hugely popular  fella with the troops, but infuriates his superiors with what they call his “irreverent tendency”.

1. Peter Banning/Peter Pan, “Hook” – The one thing we can all take away from this movie is family is the biggest happy thought of them all.

Honorable Mentions: “Good Will Hunting”, “Toys”, “Popeye”, “Dead Poet Society”, “Cadillac Man”, “Dead Again”, “Being Human”, “Jumanji”, & “Jakob the Liar”.

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